VANCOUVER, B.C -The closest rival to Vancouver is the Seattle Sounders, who are just a short 3-hour journey down Interstate-5. 50,000 fans from across the Pacific Northwest are planning on attending the Sounders, and Caps game to cheer on their respective teams. Andy O’Brien has played in some intense derby matches throughout his career before crossing the pond, and joining the Vancouver Whitecaps last summer. With Vancouver set to battle the Seattle Sounders on Saturday at CenturyLink Field O’Brien is set to put on his boots for what should be another hotly contested derby match.
O’Brien is quite appreciative by the support the away fans plan to bring.
“I think it’s nice for the MLS because there aren’t a lot of teams that are close enough together where a lot of the away supporters can travel in numbers. The Seattle and Portland games are important to the players, and they’re important to the supporters because we appreciate the effort they put in to come to support us on the day.”
“Back in England the supporters are segregated, where as when we’ve played Portland, and Seattle in the past sometimes you see supporters in amongst each other, and it’s all good banter and it’s part of the game.”
O’Brien should feel more than comfortable playing in Seattle because he speaks highly of the experience CenturyLink Field, and the Seattle Sounders, and what they have put together in Seattle.
“Seattle is probably one of the biggest atmospheres I’ve played in last season, and it’s probably one of my favourite stadiums to go, and play at so I’ll be looking forward to it if selected.”
When it comes to playing against the Sounders, O’Brien is quite familiar with Sounders forward Obafemi Martins. The anchor on the Whitecaps back-line had a lot of praise for an adversary he first encountered over a decade ago.
“I wasn’t at Newcastle with him, but I think he made his début with Inter Milan when we played them in the Champions League. I remember him coming on as a 17 year-old at the time, and he’s had a very good career, and finds himself at Seattle with some very good strikers amongst them.”
“His pedigree is up there with one of the top strikers in the league with some of the great players. He’s one of very many strikers that are good in this league, and one of many that are good for Seattle. If he plays we’ll be trying our best to make sure he doesn’t do his cartwheels.”
O’Brien is no stranger to big derby matches that can often can spill into the streets dividing towns, families, and supporters from all over.
The Harrogate, England native, played 120 games for Newcastle United, and had to go up against Sunderland, the hated Black Cats, on many occasions but that’s not the only huge derby matches he has played in.
“Probably the biggest one was Sunderland and Newcastle. I played in Portsmouth v Southampton, they were big rivalries, and when I played for Leeds, and Bradford in Yorkshire.”
Some derby contests can go back hundreds of years, with plenty of people not knowing the full history of how they started, and why they’ve grown to be so big. Supporters come, and go and clubs are still battling on the pitch for bragging rights, and that includes the always heated South Coast Hampshire derby.
“I think there is quite a lot of history to do with it, certainly the Southampton/Portsmouth one goes back to when all the dockworkers were on strike, and the rivalry was from there. Some of it is just local, and can do with a lot of other things.”
Andy O’Brien’s fondest memory from his derby playing days in England come from the Tyne and Wear derby, and in particular an April 21, 2001 match at The Stadium of Light. Now head coach of the Malian national side Patrice Carteron had scored for Sunderland in the 67th minute before an unheralded defender that had only signed with Newcastle a month prior from Bradford City scored to level the game 1-1.
“I scored for Newcastle against Sunderland in 2001, and at the time I didn’t realize the importance of it. I still remember Gary Speed saying to me when I came in – You’ll never have to buy another drink in Newcastle ever again.”
At that time in his career O’Brien was a fresh-faced 21 year-old defender who was not fully aware of how big his goal against Sunderland was. The supporters of Newcastle loved his contribution so much that they made a song about O’Brien.
“There was a guy called Liam O’Brien who played for Newcastle, and scored against them and they invented a song with Liam O’Brien, and Andy O’Brien. I have had friends that have played at Newcastle, and I still hear fans cheering it when they’re on Skype.”
(To tune of the Any Old Iron)
Who put the ball in the Mackems net?
Liam O’Brien, Andy O’Brien,
Any O’Brien, Any O’Brien, Any O’Brien
They put the ball in the Mackems net!
Andy O’Brien is clearly ready for the biggest derby match the Whitecaps will face this season on the road, and you can guarantee gaffer Martin Rennie will have his best defender patrolling the Whitecaps back-end for all 90 minutes to keep the dangerous Seattle Sounders at bay.
Notes: Whitecaps midfielder Gershon Koffie will sit out Saturday’s match with a quad injury.